NEA’s Presidential Endorsement Process May Get an Overhaul

The National Education Association Representative Assembly will meet in Minneapolis this July. The delegates will debate and vote on a host of proposed amendments to the union’s constitution, one of which would give the delegates themselves the sole responsibility for endorsing candidates for President of the United States.

Under the current process, the NEA president alone puts forth the name of a candidate for recommendation. It then has to be approved by the union’s PAC Council, made up of representatives of state affiliates and special interest caucuses, and then finally by the union’s board of directors. The board’s decision then goes to the RA for ratification.

A significant number of NEA activists felt the endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination was unfair to her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. They had good reason to be skeptical.

As revealed by the e-mails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, leaked by Wikileaks, the NEA brass was lobbying its own activists on behalf of Clinton long before the union’s formal recommendation process had even begun.

NEA constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority of delegates present to pass. This is a difficult hurdle to clear, but the vote is conducted by secret ballot, so pressure to vote one way or the other is greatly mitigated.

This could be a big deal for NEA, not just in the wake of a Janus ruling, but because the 2020 Democratic presidential field doesn’t (yet) seem to have a consensus pick. An open selection process would be something quite new for NEA.